, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 253-257

Pollen dispersal from exotic eucalypt plantations

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The introgression of genes from exotic species or populations into gene pools of native species is a widespread concern in agricultural systems. This is also an issue of increasing importance in forest systems as there has been a dramatic expansion of tree plantations, which have now reached 180 million ha globally. This has recently occurred in Australia with eucalypts. To help assess the risk of genetic pollution, we assess the pattern of realised pollen dispersal from exotic Eucalyptus nitens plantations into native E. ovata forest in Tasmania. We assessed the frequency of F1 hybrids in open-pollinated seed collected from native E. ovata trees located at varying distance from three exotic E. nitens plantations in Tasmania. Over 119,000 seedlings were screened for morphological markers diagnostic of each species and the F1 hybrid. F1 hybridisation averaged 7.2% within 100 m of the exotic E. nitens, with one native tree reaching 56%, but diminished to 0.7% by 200–300 m and continued at this low level to the limits of the sampling at 1.6 km. The decay in the percentage of interspecific F1 hybridisation with distance followed a power function with a negative exponent (%F1 = 91.435distance−0.789; R 2=0.84). Eucalyptus nitens is exclusively pollinated by small insects (smaller than honeybees), which the study shows can disperse pollen over 1.6 km. However, the restriction of most exotic F1 hybridisation to within 200 m of exotic plantations presents clear opportunities to manage the genetic impacts of plantations on native forests.